Kamala (Mallotus philippensis (Lam.) Muell.Arg.) Is an arboreal species belonging to the Euphorbiaceae family.
From the systematic point of view it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, United Plantae, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Order Euphorbiales, Family Euphorbiaceae and therefore to the Genus Mallotus and to the Specie M. philippensis.
The terms are synonymous:
– Croton philippense Lam .;
– Echinus philippensis (Lam.) Baill .;
– Rottlera tinctoria Roxb ..
The term Mallotus is a neo-Latin term coming from the Greek mallōtos lanoso: wool flock.
The specific philippensis epithet is due to its origin.
Geographical Distribution and Habitat –
Kamala is a plant with origin attributable to the Philippines, which is often found in the margins of the rainforest or in areas with moderate or high rainfall. Its altimetric distribution ranges from sea level up to about 900 m s.l.m .. is a plant probably resistant to frost as it persists along inlets and gullies on the Atherton plateau in Australia.
It is found in South Asia, Southeast Asia, as well as in Afghanistan and Australia. The southernmost limit of natural distribution is Mount Keira, south of Sydney.
The Mallotus philippensis is a small tree or bush of small or medium dimensions that can still reach 25 meters and a trunk diameter of 40 cm.
The trunk is grooved and irregular at the base with gray bark, smooth or with occasional wrinkles or bumps.
The small branches are greyish brown in color, with hair covered with rust color towards the extremity and evident foliar scars.
The leaves are opposite on the stem and oval-oblong, of 4 – 12 cm in length and 2 – 7 cm in width and terminal end more pointed. The upper surface is green without hair, while the lower one is light gray.
At the magnifying glass, small red glands may be visible.
The leaf stems are 2 to 5 cm long and a little thickened at both ends. The first leaf vein on both sides of the central rib extends from the foliar base, for over half the length of the leaf and evident ribs.
The flowers are carried in racemes, about 6 cm long, and are yellow-brown. Male and female flowers grow on separate trees.
The flowering period varies according to the area where it grows and varies from March to April in the Philippines in June – November in south-eastern Australia.
The fruits are formed about three months after flowering. These are three-lobed capsules, 6 to 9 mm wide, covered with powdery red substance soluble in alcohol, which produces a golden red dye suitable for the coloring of silk and wool.
Inside the fruits there is a small black globular seed in each of the three parts of the capsule; these have a diameter of 2 to 3 mm.
Mallotus philippensis can be grown in regions with a climate similar to the one of origin and with a medium-high availability of water.
For the plant it is possible to start from young seedlings obtained using seeds extracted fresh from the fruits and made to sprout in a layer of poor sand mixed with little organic substance and in the greenhouse.
Once the 20 – 25 cm have been reached, the young seedlings can be transplanted with all the ground bread and placed at distances of 3 – 5 m.
For growth, the plant needs a temperature between 16 and 28 degrees and water availability similar to those of tropical climates.
Its roots produce a bright red pigment.
Remember that it is a tree with moderate growth.
Uses and Traditions –
Mallotus philippensis is a plant cultivated and used to produce red dyes and herbal remedies. From it we extract the rottlerin which is a polyphenol with interesting pharmacological applications.
This plant is known by the names of: kamala tree or red kamala or kumkum, due to the covering of the fruit, which produces a red dye, and other local names.
The red Kamala powder, which is found on the leaves of this plant, contains many very interesting natural components such as phenols and polyphenols, flavonoids, coumarins and of course tannins. The roots, stems and leaves contain prussic acid.
Phenols and polyphenols are antiseptic / antifungal agents, thus helping to protect the scalp from microbial attacks and various fungal infections, as well as effectively fighting dandruff of fungal origin and promoting cell regeneration, and therefore capillary growth.
Flavonoids protect the skin and hair from solar radiation. They can fight the deterioration of collagen and keratin fibers and also have the effect of slowing down the aging of the skin.
Coumarins are antioxidants, helping to keep hair longer and healthier.
This plant has also been used as a medicinal tree in India for centuries.
It is a source of dye that is used to color silk and wool. It is used as an antioxidant for vegetable oils. The oil is used as a hair fixative and added to ointment. Seed oil is used in paints and varnishes. Seed paste is used as manure.
It is used in Ayurveda medicine. The leaves are bitter, refreshing and appetizing. The fruit is warming, purgative, anthelmintic, vulnerable, cleansing, mature, carminative, useful in the treatment of bronchitis, abdominal diseases, enlargement of the spleen etc.
In the Ayurvedic tradition, Red Kamala is therefore an antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiparasitic, antiseptic, antifungal and anti-dandruff, promotes cell renewal and slows down the aging of the skin (which makes it excellent also applied to the skin), used for centuries in areas where the plant is known for its incredible capacity.
The leaf material of this species was active against some tumors. The main medicinal use of this species is a specific cure for tapeworms.
Preparation Mode –
The outer coating of the fruit is dried and powdered. This preparation is considered as one of the most effective agents for the ejection of tapeworms and also a poison for fish.
The powder of Mallotus philippensis can be used either alone or mixed with henna and does not fear acidic or basic environments. Obviously, it does not bind to the keratin of the hair like the lawsonia and therefore if not combined with henna although it can color more or less immediately in relation to the starting base, it tends to lose the color quite quickly.
The simplest method to use it is to extract the gel a little like you do with starches.
To prepare the Gel, pour the desired amount of powder into a saucepan and gradually add water (at least lukewarm). For the amount of water to be added you go to the eye, adding a little liquid at a time. Then, place the saucepan in a bain-marie or on a very low heat and stir until you see the gel form and as soon as you see a minimum sign of gelation turn off the heat and continue stirring to obtain a smooth and homogeneous cream.
At this point the Gel is ready to be used alone or in “paste” of henna and herbs.
The laying times vary depending on the expected result, but as usual it is a matter of experimenting with your method.
Another possible use is to combine the powder with an oil: the effect is interesting, but in terms of reflections there were no great differences.
You can also use kamala powder by simply adding one or two tablespoons directly to henna or other Ayurvedic herbs, without oxidizing.
Or you can prepare an infusion (about 2 tablespoons of Powder and 100 ml of boiling water) to be used to prepare the dough after letting it rest for 5 minutes.
One last consideration is to pay attention to handling it, as it tends to stain the objects and the skin.
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and food uses are indicated for informational purposes only, do not in any way represent a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is assumed for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.